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The Smiths
The Smiths


5.0
classic

Review

by STOP SHOUTING! USER (28 Reviews)
July 23rd, 2010 | 53 replies


Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist


The gay plague. The judgement of God. The AIDS epidemic erupted in the early eighties and was cited in some quarters as an inevitable consequence of sixties' liberalism. It led to a virulent climate of homophobia, with homosexuality reviled as unnatural, an illness that needed to be cured. Throughout this debut album by The Smiths, Morrissey delineates this sense of being a social pariah, with lines such as “Am I still ill?” (Still Ill); “I’m feeling very sick and ill tonight” (What Difference Does It Make); “Will nature make a man of me yet?” (This Charming Man); and “Nature played this trick on me” (Pretty Girls Make Graves). A number of songs go even further than this, insinuating an explicit connection between sex and death, such as Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Suffer Little Children.

The album starts with the words “It is time the tale were told/ of how you took a child/ and made him old” (Reel Around The Fountain) and closes with Suffer Little Children, a harrowing song about the notorious Moors Murders. These occurred during Morrissey’s early childhood in his home town; he was a potential victim. There is no getting away from the fact that child abuse, or rather the loss of innocence, is never far from the agenda in these songs.

In this new world of AIDS, to have a sexual encounter is to play a form of Russian roulette. But this only serves to make the lure of sex even more attractive. Reel Around The Fountain (a gay synonym for oral sex) sees Morrissey confessing “you can pin and mount me/ like a butterfly”. Casual encounters with strangers (This Charming Man), gay confessions (What Difference Does It Make) and rent boys (I Don’t Owe You Anything) might indicate an embrace of sordid squalor. In fact there is nothing of the sort. Instead one senses an almost puritan morality at work here. Innocence is idealised, not lusted after. Take these lines from Pretty Girls Make Graves: “she wants it now/ she will not wait/ but she’s too rough and I’m too delicate/ and on the sand/another man takes her hand/ a smile lights up her stupid face and well it would/ I’ve lost my faith in womanhood.”

Musically too, there is a sense of hailing back to a more innocent time. Marr’s retro jangling guitars recall sixties' bands like The Byrds and early Rolling Stones, at a time when even rock music (such as Van Halen and Europe) was embracing synthesisers. The songs often disdain conventional verse and chorus structure, such as the meandering in You've Got Everything Now or the stream of consciousness accompaniment of the shimmering The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. But never have guitars sounded so damn catchy, such as the classic power riffs in What Difference Does It Make or the downright funky bass lines in This Charming Man and Pretty Girls Make Graves. Marr even throws in some Dylan-esque harmonica (Hand in Glove) to complete the sixties' revival ambience.

Big questions are forever being posed in these lyrics about life and death, such as “does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?” (Still Ill). A debate that bedevilled renaissance philosophers like Berkeley might seem far too grandiose and cerebral for pop music to deal with, but is thrown into sardonic relief by Morrissey’s throwaway reply of “I dunno!” This is emblematic of the album as a whole. Morrissey might be stealing ideas and words left, right and centre (Shelagh Delaney, James Joyce, William Blake, Jack Kerouac), but they are packaged with such wit and conviction that he can get away with it.

Forget the blathering about the production issues on this rather dark and gothic album. All I hear is a collection of standout songs, in contrast to the fifties' rockabilly of “Meat Is Murder”, the pop of “The Queen Is Dead” or the rock of “Strangeways Here We Come”. Dripping with poetical literacy, insouciant irony and of course tormented angst, this album (along with REM’s “Murmur”) practically invented a whole new music movement (indie) and the influence of Morrissey’s kitchen sink drama lyrics can still be felt in more recent music movements such as post-hardcore and emo.



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user ratings (1544)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Tom93M (5)
What difference it did make…...

jtswope (4)
For The Smiths, happiness does not come easily, but powerful, moving songwriting certainly does....

Jonathan McCombs (5)
Hard to differentiate from silence....



Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
July 23rd 2010


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, pos'd.



I really need to get into the Smiths

shindip
July 23rd 2010


3539 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review. Smiths are one of those bands I can enjoy but never really love. Sort of like a good hooker.

STOP SHOUTING!
July 23rd 2010


777 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ali, you've got 818 ratings and haven't heard the smiths?



shindip, smiths are one of those bands i really love, but don't always enjoy. sort of like my girlfriend.

Enotron
July 23rd 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

brililant review, this album needed one.

shindip
July 23rd 2010


3539 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

surprised this didnt have a review yet. Suffer Little Childrens awesome

AliW1993
July 23rd 2010


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ali, you've got 818 ratings and haven't heard the smiths?




I've heard them quite a bit but I've never actually listened to one of their albums. I've got some of Morrissey's solo stuff as well so I really do need to check them out at some point.

shindip
July 23rd 2010


3539 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I started with a greatest hits album then listened to their studio albums it worked out welll

londoncalling457
July 24th 2010


2712 Comments


I got the remastered version of this on vinyl a few days ago. Amazing.

Xplisit
July 24th 2010


1646 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"and “nature played this trick on me” (Miserable Lie)."



no, thats from Pretty Girls Make Graves.



"Take these lines from Miserable Lie: “she wants it now/ she will not wait/ but she’s too rough and I’m too delicate/ and on the sand/another man takes her hand/ and I’ve lost my faith in womanhood.” "



so is that.





illmitch
July 24th 2010


5511 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

good review, one of my top 3 bands of all time

AtavanHalen
July 24th 2010


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Bad review.

STOP SHOUTING!
July 24th 2010


777 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

xplisit: fixed.



atavanhalen: constructive criticism?

merriweather
September 11th 2010


619 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol why is this review all about homosexuality and aids??? like i don't think morrissey is gay. for all we know he could have been but idk i think your seeing things in the lyrics that aren't there. maybe they are gay lyrics but i don't get why the very first thing you talk about and also the thing you talk about the most has to be about homosexuality and aids.

Enotron
September 11th 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

well seeing as he was an icon for closet gays....

Waior
Contributing Reviewer
September 11th 2010


11765 Comments


i have never listened to these guys but i was told i have the same voice as this guy at a campfire last night

is that an insult

also would i like this

Ire
September 11th 2010


41945 Comments


Start with the Queen Is Dead

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2010


19501 Comments


get a greatest hits or queen is dead instead; latter is considered to be their best album

i personally dont like this band but theyre sort of an essential ---indie--- listen i guess

merriweather
September 11th 2010


619 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

he has such a flawless and angelic voice. like i said i don't think it sounds THAT gay.

AnvilJ
September 11th 2010


124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Morrissey has a ambiguous nature to his lyricism. The lyrics are more akin to poetic Roshlach tests than a political statements even when their subject matter draws points towards sexual abuse and neglect.

merriweather
September 11th 2010


619 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

exactly, people read gay stuff in the lyrics because they think the smiths are gay or because they themselves are gay and probably in denial about it.



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